COLUMBUS, Ohio – Spring is here, which means a flourish of young wildlife will soon make appearances in backyards, local parks, and sometimes unexpected areas. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is encouraging all Ohioans to observe from a distance before interacting with any young animal.
Observing a young animal is a thrilling and heartwarming experience, but it can quickly turn sour if the animal is believed to be orphaned. It’s important to remember that wildlife parents are devoted to their young and rarely abandon them. A young wild animal’s best chance for survival is with its mother. Most wildlife taken in by people other than trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators does not survive. In many cases, a young animal collected by a person is not lost or abandoned but was simply waiting for a parent to return.
Many species are raised by only one parent (usually the mother) who cannot be in two places at once. This means that baby wildlife must be left alone several times during the day, or even most of the time while the mother ventures off to find food for herself and her young. Baby birds that have fallen from their nests are among the most encountered wildlife species removed from the wild by humans. Contrary to popular belief, human scent will not prevent the parents from returning to care for their young. Individuals should return a baby bird to its nest and walk away so the parents can continue to feed it without fear of humans.
In the case of white-tailed deer, a doe hides her young from predators by leaving it alone in a secluded spot, such as a grassy meadow or a flower bed. A hidden fawn has virtually no scent, and when left alone, it is difficult for predators to find. The doe is usually nearby and will tend to the fawn during the night.
If you see open wounds or other injuries, or you know in fact that a young wild animal has lost its parent, research solutions before taking any action. Specific guidance on how to best help commonly encountered wildlife species is available on the Orphaned and Injured Wildlife page at wildohio.gov.
To help protect young and vulnerable wild animals, keep pets under control so they do not raid nests or cause injuries. Remember to keep pets inoculated against parasites and diseases. Always check for nests before cutting down trees or clearing brush. It is best to cut trees and clear brush in the autumn when the nesting season is finished. Teach children to respect wildlife and their habitat by observing wildlife from a distance.
State and federal laws protect and regulate wildlife in Ohio, and only trained and licensed wildlife rehabilitators, with permits issued by the Division of Wildlife, may possess and care for native wildlife. These laws are in place for the benefit of humans as well as wild animals.
Contact a local wildlife official before acting. Call 800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) or visit wildohio.gov to find a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in your area and to learn more about species-specific guidance. Human intervention is always a wild animal’s last hope for survival, never its best hope.
Good intentions can hurt. Keep wildlife in the wild.
The mission of the Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.